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September 2004

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  • The EU's decision in December on Turkey's bid for membership will have dramatic effects on the country's economic development. But even if the formal accession process begins, major reforms will still have to be undertaken.
  • Russia's economy is roaring up the growth curve but dependence on oil revenues, insufficient diversification into other activities and a growing gap between the well-off and the poor give cause for concern.
  • Following a period of sustained economic growth, the Caribbean is faced with a new challenge. Recent developments in international legislation might reduce capital inflows and put more pressure on the region's financial sector.
  • Bulgaria cleared an important hurdle when it finally approved the sale of mobile phone company BTC to a consortium led by Advent International in February, in one of the region's largest leveraged buy-outs. Financing for the deal finally closed in June. Gyuri Karady of Baring Private Equity Partners says: ?It tested the legal framework in Bulgaria, and it looks like the rule of law prevailed, which is a triumph for Bulgaria.? Progress on the deal was one of the factors that helped the country obtain an investment-grade rating later in the year.
  • German savings banks are using credit default swaps to reduce their credit risk concentration for the first time.
  • You're a populist left-wing politician in South America. Your country's elite doesn't like you, and Wall Street is scathing. Your reputation could do with a bit of help. What do you do? Why, take out an advertisement in the New York press, of course. The trend started in July, when an advert appeared in the New York Times. "Argentina," it blared: "A responsible country, a responsible proposal". A list of the great and the good followed, attesting to Argentina's "sincere and realistic proposal to creditors" (see Argentina's creditors brace for lowball offer). U2's Bono, Mikhail Gorbachev and actors Emma Thompson and Viggo Mortensen were prominent.
  • Wait long enough and anything comes back into fashion. Even flares. Now it's high-yield cash collateralized bonds, or CDOs.
  • A slowdown in the growth of China's asset pool is not deterring new entrants among fund managers.
  • South Africa has built stable macroeconomic foundations since the overthrow of apartheid but its potential as a regional leader is still hampered by corporate rigidities, untapped talent reflected in high unemployment, an Aids epidemic and a failure to attract inward investment.
  • There has been an unseasonal tension on some of Spain's more exclusive beaches over the past month. August is usually a time for the great and the good of industry to leave the stresses of the cities behind them and unwind by the sea. But for the chairmen of some of the biggest companies, the holidays were spoiled by the knowledge that in the autumn they will be fighting for their jobs.
  • If your competitors are beating you to the most lucrative deals, it could be they're better at pressing the flesh. Wooing potential clients over drinks or dinner is as much a part of a banker's job as making formal pitches.
  • Germany breached the EU's budget deficit limit of 3% of GDP over the first six months of this year and will almost certainly break the terms of the European stability pact that underpins the euro for the third year in a row. In fact, the government managed to run a 4% budget deficit over the first half of this year, slightly higher than the 3.9% for the end of 2003, federal statistics office Destatis revealed last month.
  • To date, securitization in eastern Europe has been a very occasional affair. Turkey has seen a few future-flow transactions, Hungary has a relatively developed domestic mortgage bond market, but you can count the number of other transactions on the fingers of two hands. However, the market should pick up this year.
  • European and US equity markets have mirrored each other for years but macro trends could force a decoupling over the next two years. ABN Amro strategists see several factors paving the way for this. The first is that productivity growth in the US and Europe has passed an inflection point. The US has experienced two years of strong productivity growth, but the rate is unlikely to be sustainable. European productivity still has room for improvement.
  • Investors ask tough questions these days about companies' ability to honour their commitments. After all, no-one wants to fall victim to the next corporate scandal. But Toys “R” Us shareholders and bondholders are safe, aren't they? Surely official “spokesanimal” Geoffrey the Giraffe and chums won't let them down.
  • By Camilla Palladino
  • The mini bank crisis Russians faced in the summer has underscored the urgent need for bank sector reform and the creation of a system that can respond to the credit needs of businesses and individuals.
  • Deflation is on the way, summoning up a long and dreary financial winter. But it should be preceded by a burst of autumn sunshine
  • Having been heavily overweight on Russia last year, many emerging-market equity investors are now scaling back their positions. Some investors are making a fundamental reassessment of Russian equity risk.
  • Banks in Arab countries enjoyed much better results in 2003, especially during the second half. In 2002 earnings fell on the back of weakness in global investment markets, tight margins, and higher provisions. Net profit bounced back in 2003, rising by over 15% for the top 100 Arab banks.
  • Iraq and Argentina's debt problems will dominate this month's IMF/World Bank meetings, with the size of their liabilities casting doubt on the international financial system's ability to cope.
  • Low interest rates and improvements in financial stability and management in large parts of Latin America are putting banks on the path to increased lending capacity as demand for credit increases.
  • Lack of volatility and narrow spreads have driven investors to seek out yield in the structured credit market. New products built on transparent, non-proprietary credit derivative indices have fed this demand but participants worry that not all investors have a clear idea of what they are getting into.
  • The prospect of next month's European Commission decision on EU membership for Romania has concentrated the minds of the country's politicians and bankers. A flurry of reforms have been accompanied by an acceleration of privatization to get the country into shape for a 2007 accession target.
  • When it comes to picking stocks and beating the market, women are better, says In a study of 100,000 portfolios from July 2003 to July 2004, the company found the average woman's portfolio grew 10%, beating the FTSE All-Share by 3% and the average man's portfolio by 4%.
  • Real money investors such as mutual funds, as well as credit hedge funds, prop traders and other specialist investors, are finally treating credit risk as an asset class to be managed like any other. They bring new liquidity to the markets in default swaps and credit indices that have made this possible.
  • Through western eyes, China and India might seem locked in a struggle for economic supremacy. The truth is quite different. The economies are complementary more than being competitors with each other, and the implications will shape the global economy for decades to come.